Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Music

Trying to keep up?

Worn out
From trying to keep up?
Face it
This is an addiction
As fierce
As trying to run away
From voices
Calling in the night

Fix it or get over it!
Now!

Or did you lose it
Somewhere back there
Years before you
Took that first fall
Into icy water
And never
Stopped running?

What are you, and what am I? The broken model, or the sought-after model? Does it really matter?

My mother’s plunge into icy water was polio. She was 28; I was 6. She lived most of her life believing she had to demonstrate she was ‘normal.’ Whatever that meant.

Since when did it become The Rule that we must hide our broken bits? Or at least pretend they don’t matter when they do.

I broke my jaw over three years ago. Ironically, it was a gift. A dead stop I couldn’t ignore. Forced changes rescued me from a diet and lifestyle that was undermining my heart and kidney health.

But the gift sometimes feels like poison. Not poison to my body, but to my spirit and my social life. Especially when I come up against limitations.

This morning I heard a John Rutter song on public radio — “Look to the Day.” Rutter wrote the words and music at the invitation of Cancer Research UK for their Service of Thanksgiving in Ely Cathedral, 23rd September 2007. A simple song of hope and reorientation.

Somehow it got through to me. There’s more to life than continuing with things as usual. Especially when they aren’t usual, and life is short.

I found this rendition on You Tube. It’s sung from the heart by women and men who don’t speak English as their first language. I want to learn to sing like this from my heart, especially when I find myself in new or scary territory.

Praying you have a hope-filled Sabbath rest.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2019
Image found at my.vanderbilt.edu

I’m not my mother

I’m not my mother
Or the young girl
She wanted me to be
Surrounded by friends
Pretty with curls in my hair
Dressed in cheery colors
Enjoying a childhood
Unlike hers lived in fear
Of gossip and taunts
From girls going nowhere
Despite their self-assured
Superiority unknown
In my mother’s world

I fought against my mother. Refused her regular advice about clothes and colors. Felt ashamed of her outgoing ways and her polio-scarred body; her face devoid of make-up. Nothing could hide the tremor on the left side of her face. Or the sight of her estranged mother arriving at grade school, dressed like a diva bearing gifts to her royal daughter.

I endured with chagrin and barely suppressed anger her attempts to make my straight thin hair curly and fulsome, like her beautiful auburn hair.

And…she taught me to play the piano. Cook. Clean. Starch and iron clothes. Make beds. Fold towels and sheets. Organize drawers and cupboards. Things her absent mother never taught her.

There’s a saying I remember from my growing-up years. I didn’t care for it; my mother did. Her kitchen wall hanging proclaimed it boldly: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t; neither could she.

Two lost souls thrown together. One extroverted, the other introverted. Both lonely; intelligent; eldest daughters; desperate to be loved and heard; musicians from the inside out. Overshadowed and dominated by a world of men. Unable to play and sing our songs freely without fear of having our wings clipped.

And yet…every time I read My mother’s body, I feel a tug at my heart. Pulling me back toward her. Not out of pity, but with understanding that’s still taking root in me. Softening me toward her and toward myself. Especially when I’m playing the piano, and feel some of her musicality playing through me.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2019
Photo of winter snowdrops found at pinterest.com

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I turned 75. No fanfare. Just a quiet day at home enjoying my retirement family: D, Smudge and Marie. Plus telephone conversations with our two children. And a walk outside with D in cold, windy weather.

At this age there aren’t many things I want for myself. Nonetheless, during a conversation with a friend earlier this week I identified something I’ve wanted all my life.

When I was 15 years old Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from when I was 9, asked about my plans after high school graduation.

‘I’m thinking about going to Bible college.’

‘Have you ever thought about going to a music conservatory and majoring in piano?’

Fear gripped my heart. I would love to do this! Yet I had no confidence in myself beyond what I’d already done, and no vision for what this might mean for me.

Mrs. Hanks said she had a friend teaching in the best music program in the state of Georgia. In fact, she’d already spoken with her, and this woman would be delighted to meet me and talk with me about scholarship possibilities.

When I told my parents about this, my father said he thought I would be better ready for life if I enrolled in a Bible college in South Carolina. Some of my friends had already studied there, and he was certain I would get a good education there.

I felt torn between fear and excitement about the unknown, and my desperate need not to fail. I also knew I would make it at the Bible college. So I chose the Bible college.

Many times I’ve looked back at that decision and wondered what might have been. Music has always been where my heart feels most at home.

Thankfully, beginning with the Bible college, music has always been part of my life. Sometimes for pay; sometimes as a volunteer. Even when I was a professor and dean at the seminary, music informed everything I did. It made its way into my thought processes, the way I said or wrote things, my imagination about this world, and about this huge universe presided over by the Greatest Musician of All.

Now I’m 75. My fingers and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Even so, I long to recover some of the freedom I used to have at the keyboard.

Even more important, my mother wanted me to become a musician. Not a famous musician, but the musician she already heard in me at age 5 when she began teaching me to play the piano.

So a few days ago I contacted a musician friend and asked her to recommend a piano coach for me. Someone who can help me, at this age, to regain some of what the years have taken. My happy birthday gift to myself. And maybe for my mother.

Right now I’m a 75-year old kid who can’t wait to open a present I’ve wanted for too many years!

Thanks for listening,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2018
Photo found at birthdaycakeformom.com

Comin’ Up From Behind – Sherry Fraser/Two Ton Boa

I’ve been singing this in my head all week! My favorite line: “She’s got the truth and her tongue for a slingshot.” All put together in a rollicking score by our daughter, Sherry Fraser of Two Ton Boa. I’ve included the lyrics below my comments.

Sherry published this in May 2000 (Kill Rock Stars). It was later re-recorded by her old boyfriend, John Wozniak of Marcy Playground, as the trailer to the movie “Cruel Intentions.”

I prefer Sherry’s original recording. Not just because she’s my daughter (!), but because this is a woman’s song. It captures the anger and fury of a woman who’s being used and abused, plus her determination to “take a mighty swipe at the high hogs….” All in a lively, upbeat rag that throws the words right down there in front of you—dished up hot on your plate whether you like them or not.

I’ll never have Sherry’s voice. But I have her spirit and her determination. Thank you, Sherry, for showing me how it’s done.

Comin’ Up From Behind – Sherry Fraser/Two Ton Boa

She’s an eight ball
She’s rolling faster than a whitewall
She’s got an avalanche packed in a snowball
She’s losing all her leeches like a stonewall…she’s loaded up

She’s the underdog
Gonna take a mighty swipe at the high hogs
While they’re sipping on their tricks in a thick fog
Making eyes at the girls like bullfrogs…I’m telling you sir

She’s coming up from, coming up from,
Comin’ up, coming up from behind, yeah!
She’s coming up from, coming up from, coming up
Coming up from behind

You’d like her hanging
Like a sneaker on a live wire dangling
While your wall street pockets are jangling
With the hollow jackpot of your rich kid games

It’s a longshot
She’s got the truth and her tongue for a slingshot
But she’s taking steady aim at the big shots
It’s hard to miss the ruling bullies on the blacktop…

You better pocket your turf
She’s coming up from behind

You had her hanging
Like a sneaker on a live wire dangling
While your gold lined pockets were jangling
With the hollow jackpot of your wretched games

She caught your sick lie
It was creeping in the shadow of your white smile
Lurking underneath the cover of your bedroom eyes
Were you greasing up plans for your small fry?

You want her talking up to you
Where you float like a royal balloon-o
Your ego swollen to the size of the moon…well
I think you found somebody to cut you down to size!

Wishing you a happy weekend!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 March 2018

HERarchy


When I was growing up, it seemed the only way to succeed in my white conservative Christian circles was by toeing the line. Never acting out or acting up. It was the only safe way to get ahead in life or at least keep up with the boys.

As it turned out, it wasn’t safe. I didn’t get ahead. And I never could keep up with the boys.

Being the ‘good girl’ type (at least on the outside), I didn’t experience vicious playground hazing. Probably because I wasn’t threatening to girls who seemed to know all about boys and makeup, movies and sex.

Though I desperately wanted to be included, I didn’t want undue attention. So I modulated my voice, made sure I didn’t offend anyone, smiled a lot, and kept my mouth shut. I was no big deal. No threat to anyone.

That’s why I’m blown away when I listen to my daughter – so like and so unlike I am. She wasn’t a rebel growing up. She was simply herself. Bold and introverted. Intuitive and creative. Her music began early and still takes my breath away. How did this voice happen?

Below are most of the lyrics from one of her recorded songs, followed by a YouTube recording. It’s Sherry’s take on playground politics among girls young and old. Another way of describing the Divide and Conquer Club.

HERarchy

Misfit, misfit, got no sense
Sitting like a chicken on the chain link fence
Never picks a side, all she does is cry
How many teardrops can she hide
you MISFIT MISFIT throw the dog a biscuit!
How many kicks until she licks it?
1, 2, 3, 4, FIVE

This situation’s hopeless
No matter what I do
These small-town girls will hate me
Since I stepped outside their rules

I see their
Angel faces twist into riddles
Sisters on a rampage with the scissors
Tongues packing sweet words like pistols
Firing on my back like heat-seeking missiles

pleading crying cannot satisfy
the cruel appetites of GIRLS! GIRLS!

What do they see?
Why are these crosshairs on me?
What do they hear?
The voice of envy sneer…?
I’m a spotlight thief!
I won’t take tea
I won’t take lessons in how to be
Seen
Not heard
I’m a misfit little bird
Dodging bigger beaks
On a playground for

GIRLS! GIRLS!

Look who’s all alone –
It’s the one-woman show!
Who’s got a stone?
Don’t you know –
Our status grows
When we tear into a threat
With a fine tooth comb!
She’s all alone –
Somebody please throw the dog bone!

Angel faces twist into riddles
Sisters on a rampage with the scissors
Tongues packing mind fucks like pistols
Breathing down my neck like heat seeking missiles

Running hiding
can’t get by
the vicious social politics of
GIRLS! GIRLS! ….

©Sherry Fraser (Two Ton Boa), recorded on Parasiticide, published 2009

Here’s the entire recording. Sherry wrote the lyrics and music, and sings the lead.

Here’s to more women willing to shine a light on what’s happening in our social and political playgrounds today.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2018
Photo of playground girls found at dreamstime.com

slow cold drizzle

slow cold drizzle
hangs in late winter air
song sparrows sing spring

I’m just back from a morning errand. Chilled to the bone, umbrella in hand, winter hat and gloves in place along with multiple layers of warmth. As I walked down our driveway, I heard and then saw a resident song sparrow getting a jump on competitors that might want his staked-out territory! Here’s to an early spring–which we seemed to have for two  glorious days this week before another cold front came through yesterday.

Enjoy the birdsong, if not the weather, wherever you are. (There are two song sparrows on the short video.)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 February 2018
Video found on YouTube – by Lang Elliot at musicofnature.org

Counting the hours

A small
Limited world
Greets me
With a question –
And what of today…?

Indeed –
What of it?
With or without me
It will cycle by
Rehearsing its hours
Yet again in a chain
Of semi-predictability
Without need
For me to sit
At this window
Watching the day slip
Before my eyes
Through fingers chilled
By winter’s dull sky
And frozen vegetation
Waiting for spring
And release

Life is in a different key these days
I’m still not sure what it is
Or how to play it

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 January 2018
Image found at ytimg.com

Thank you, Louis Armstrong….

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for recording this amazing song, first released as a single 60 years ago today. Your smooth and grainy, gravelly voice is an inspiration. The seniors among us remember what it was like in the USA in 1967.

  • Viet Nam war drags on with no end in sight
  • About 2500 mothers of drafted soldiers storm the Pentagon, demand a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
  • LBJ doubles down–determined not to ‘lose’ this war
  • Edward W. Brooke, Attorney General of Massachusetts, seated in the US Senate as the first elected Negro Senator in 85 years
  • Muhammed Ali refuses to be drafted into the Viet Nam war, is stripped of his world heavyweight boxing championship
  • Anti-war protests break out across the United States
  • Blood poured on draft records by a Roman Catholic priest and two companions
  • California Governor Ronald Reagan suggests that LBJ ‘leak’ the possibility of nuclear weapons being used
  • Stokely Carmichael calls for a black revolution in the US, using skills “they taught us” in Viet Nam
  • Thurgood Marshall confirmed by Senate as first black on the Supreme Court, opposed by one Republican–Strom Thurmond of South Carolina

I know you didn’t write this song yourself. Yet you chose to record it during a difficult time in our history. Perhaps because of the chaos, you wanted to shine a light on the simple gifts and beauty of this world, and on everyday life with our neighbors. I need this as much today as I did back then.

With admiration and gratitude,
Elouise 

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 August 2017
BBC video found on YouTube; pop ballad written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss 
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Grainy

slow motion

outside my window air hangs heavy

yesterday’s rain now stale
drops in slow motion from the gutter
exposed trees stand breathless
caught in damp morning heat

I hear the rhythmic beat
of tires coming and going
on the road beside our house

August is the saddest month
weary of relentless summer
it languishes—
counting the days

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Symphony

Captured on camera

In the blink of an eye
Memories take me back
Surrounded by music
I want to stay here forever
Feeling the harmonies
The ebb and flow of
Joyful voices surrounding me
Filled with hope for tomorrow
Lost in a magic sliver of time
When all was right with the world
We were ambassadors
On a mission
Ready to die if needs be
My heart aches for what we lost
On our way from there to here
So many hidden wounds and
Untold secrets and yet
One concert after another
We entered gladly
Into His gates with thanksgiving
And into His courts with praise
Eager and ready for whatever
Tomorrow might bring

This photo was taken in 1962-63. It’s the Ambassador Choir—the concert choir of Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina (now Columbia International University).

It was D’s senior year, my junior year. He was president of the choir; I served as accompanist to the choir. Mainly piano, and a little organ. D is on the third row from the top, 2nd from the left. I’m on the same row, 3rd from the right (with glasses).

We’re in the college auditorium, in front of the college motto and a huge globe of the world. Many students studied at CBC/CIU because they wanted to be missionaries. Among them were bi-lingual ‘missionary kids’ who came from all over the world.

Bill Supplee, our beloved choir and music director, was a stickler for getting things right. In the photo we’re grouped according to gender and height. However, each concert required a new lineup created by Mr. Supplee. We stood in groups of eight (eight part harmony for many songs), never next to anyone singing our part.

Getting it right meant on pitch, from memory, with no sliding notes or coming in early or hanging on late. Precision mattered. Articulation was paramount. Drawing attention to oneself by swaying or making head motions was absolutely forbidden.

This wasn’t about us, it was about the Gospel. Always presented in a carefully crafted sequence of music. The choir processed from center and side aisles onto the risers. Unison at first, breaking into eight-part harmony at the end. All to invite the congregation into the Lord’s gates with thanksgiving.

Each concert ended with a brief challenge to consider what God might want you to do in response, followed by a glorious recessional. The message was clear, and always well received.

Not clear, however, was how many of us carried hidden, unresolved pain from our childhoods as we processed down the aisles. Today I’m aware of stories I didn’t know then, and have shared my own. Many of our friends are already gone.

Still, I’m no cynic. I value the privilege of having been part of this spirited endeavor. It gave me the privilege of being regularly surrounded and held by music that kept my soul and my spirit alive. And, along the way, gave me the gift of knowing and falling in love with D.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Gate

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